The Tinian Casino Gaming Control Commission filed a lawsuit against the mayor, the municipal treasurer and the Municipality of Tinian alleging that several local laws passed by the Tinian Legislative Delegation were unconstitutional and void because the Gaming Act, a popular initiative passed by a two-thirds vote of the electorate, could not be amended by local legislation passed only by three Tinian senators and one Tinian representative.
The lawsuit also alleged that the mayor and treasurer, in refusing to pay raises given by the commission to its employees, without ever having a hearing and complying with due process, violated their constitutional rights to their property interest in those salaries.
The Gaming Commission sued the mayor and the treasurer in their official and individual capacities.
In a victory for the Gaming Commission, Judge David Wiseman found that “…[H]alting increased salary payments was a constitutional violation…The court finds that the salary increases in question were a constitutionally protected property interest…”
The judge’s decision said, in part, that “The Casino Gaming Control Act …provides that the commission may appoint it members and set its members’ salaries…(“Persons appointed under this section shall be appointed on such terms and conditions as to remuneration and otherwise are not subject to the Commonwealth Civil Service System…”)”
“The whole point of this portion of our lawsuit was that it was the commission which had the power to set its employees’ salaries, not the local Tinian Legislative Delegation, so the mayor should have paid those salaries and not insisted on paying salaries listed in a local Budget Act. This decision supports that position,” said TCGCC legal counsel Bob O’Connor.
“This decision is a clear victory for the commission, ” he added.
While Wiseman’s decision granted qualified immunity to the mayor and treasurer, dismissing them from the lawsuit in their individual capacities, the mayor and the treasurer were retained in the action as defendants in their official capacities. The Municipality of Tinian was not dismissed from the lawsuit either.
“The judge apparently thought that the mayor and the treasurer should remain in this lawsuit only in their official capacities, and that is fine with the commission. The commission put them into the action in their individual capacities so that they might ultimately, at the conclusion of the case, have some personal responsibility for the commission’s attorney fees. The commission thought they should have to think twice in the future about violating the constitutional rights of the commission employees and think twice about their continuing interference in commission affairs. They remain in the lawsuit in their official capacities and will remain officially responsible for the outcome of this case, and that is enough for us,” said O’Connor.
Wiseman has not yet ruled on the other pending motions concerning the constitutionality of the local laws passed by the Tinian Delegation purporting to amend the Gaming Control Act.